- A large government-funded study concluded that vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids did not prevent cancer or heart disease.
- One expert says there is no reason to take vitamin D supplements.
- Future studies are needed to determine if these dietary supplements can help with other health conditions.
Slow aging and fight disease. However, if you are dependent on vitamin D or omega-3 fatty acids to prevent a stroke or cancer, you should save your money. The largest clinical trial conducted with these dietary supplements concluded that none of the methods are effective in stopping cancer or heart disease.
Research has shown for years that people with a low vitamin D level or those who eat less fish are at greater risk of developing heart problems or cancer. However, these studies were mostly observational, that is, the researchers simply discovered patterns in a sample of humans. These new data come from a controlled clinical trial in which nearly 26,000 people received either the supplements or a placebo. Published in The New England Journal of Medicine concluded that omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D were no better than placebos in the prevention of cancer or cardiovascular disease such as heart attacks, strokes or cardiac arrest problems.
Although the authors of the study concluded that vitamin D and fish oil play no role in the prevention of cancer or cardiovascular disease, they found that omega-3 fatty acids risk heart attack in healthy adults can reduce by 28 percent. And they saw that African Americans who took omega-3s daily reduced their heart attack risk by 77 percent.
Why are the additions to this positive message still considered unhelpful? Dr. Clifford Rosen, MD of the Maine Medical Research Center, explains MensHealth.com that you can not just cut out and respond to these good news.
It's about "a completely different static approach," explains Rosen. The study was developed to investigate major cardiovascular events, including a variety of conditions such as heart attack or stroke. But if you start extracting separate cardiovascular diseases, such as heart attacks, you have to do a completely different statistical analysis and test, he says.
"It should be tested in a larger, more formalized study," he explains. "There are some possibilities, I think the fish oil is still in the air," says Rosen.
Not so for D. In an accompanying editorial, Rosen said he thinks the door is closed for this vitamin. In other words, it's not worth doing so if you're worried about heart disease and cancer, which this study looked at. However, there is a possibility that it may be helpful for other diseases that have not been studied as thoroughly.
What if you have tested your D levels and they are low? You may need to do more testing than you need a supplement. Rosen believes doctors should consider whether other health problems, such as bowel or liver disease, could be the cause of low vitamin D levels.
Instead of one of the two supplements, Rosen recommends that everyone focus on the scientifically proven pillars of good health: exercise and lots of fruit, vegetables, nuts and yes fish.